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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on matters within my area of responsibility arising from the investigations carried out by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson.

In his statement to the House of 25 January, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said that the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland had concluded that, having considered all the facts and information ascertained and reported by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson, and having re-examined the original Royal Ulster Constabulary investigation files, the evidence did not warrant any further prosecutions in the two incidents in which charges of murder have already been brought, nor in the third incident at Ballynerry. He did, however, conclude that there was evidence of the commission of offences relating to perverting the course of justice, but further concluded, on grounds of public interest, that it would not be proper to institute any criminal proceedings. The question of further action therefore falls to be considered in the context of the question of disciplinary proceedings.

The Director of Public Prosecutions has advised the Chief Constable of the RUC of those offences in respect of which he concluded there was evidence. The Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has today announced that he has invited the chief constable of Staffordshire, Mr. Charles Kelly, to consider whether disciplinary charges should be brought in the case of RUC officers of chief superintendent rank and below, and if so what charges would be appropriate.[Interruption.] Mr. Kelly has appointed one of his assistant chief constables to help him in this task.[Interruption.]

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

The work has already started. The Chief Constable of the RUC has told me of his concern that it should be completed without delay in the interests of all concerned. The Chief Constable has also confirmed to me that he considers that any charges brought should be heard by a chief constable of another force. I have made clear to him my concern for these disciplinary issues to be resolved as soon as possible.

Mr. Sampson also made observations on the role played by more senior officers. The Police Authority for Northern Ireland is the discipline authority for those ranks. Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Philip Myers, has therefore informed the chairman of the police authority of these observations, and is making available relevant material for his attention. I have seen the chairman who has confirmed this position to me and that these matters will now be considered by the authority. I shall keep the House informed of further developments on these matters.

The circumstances surrounding and following the incidents in 1982 gave rise to concern about procedures, responsibilities and control within the RUC. In the light of Mr. Stalker's interim conclusions and of Mr. Sampson's further comments upon them, a special inspection into those matters was carried out by Mr. Charles McLachlan, one of Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary, and I received his report on 25 January. I am grateful to him for the most thorough manner in which he carried out that task. I have since discussed his report with the Chief Constable.

I am most anxious that there should be a better public understanding of the two major issues involved. The McLachlan report deals with the procedures and practices that have been followed in police work in Northern Ireland arising out of anti-terrorist operations. The report essentially covers two areas: first, how the special branch, with its own crucially important and distinctive task, still remains an integral part of the overall force within the disciplines of mainstream policing. The House will be aware of the concerns expressed in 1982 that the special branch had become a "force within a force". The second issue is how to ensure that, notwithstanding security and other considerations, there is a proper procedure for the investigation of all serious incidents, and that full and accurate information is given to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Those questions go to the heart of the problems faced by a police force using the normal processes of the law while fighting a vicious and ruthless terrorist enemy. Intelligence is the lifeblood of that fight. Without it, the security forces are seriously handicapped. It is vital that it is protected. Moreover, knowledge of even the procedures used by special branch and other RUC officers will not only make their task still more difficult, but it will put lives at even greater risk. That is why the security forces are understandably and rightly so committed to protecting intelligence. But the lessons of those incidents show clearly that that desire must not operate outside effective accountability and control.

On the question of a force within a force, Mr. McLachlan's report makes it clear that, while the Stalker-Sampson inquiry rightly focused on the situation in 1982 and immediately thereafter, matters were substantially improved shortly afterwards. In 1983, at the request of the Chief Constable, a former very senior officer of the Security Service carried out a special review into certain aspects of special branch management and its relationship with the CID. His recommendations were implemented in full. The new rank of senior assistant chief constable was introduced for the RUC in 1984. Since then, both the special branch and CID have answered to the same senior assistant chief constable, so that their work has been fully co-ordinated.

Special branch operations must be conducted in secrecy, but they must not be carried out without the knowledge of the RUC senior command. Mr. McLachlan stresses that the regional assistant chief constables are now aware of the operations of special branch within their respective areas, and re-emphasises the importance of them continuing to monitor them. In addition, he makes a number of specific recommendations designed to ensure the highest standard in the selection and training of members of special branch, the prevention of overspecialisation, the encouragement of cross-posting both within the RUC and with other police forces and the further integration of the branch with the other parts of the force. In putting forward these recommendations, Mr. McLachlan pays a strong tribute to the present professionalism and standards of members of special branch, stressing the vital part they play in combating terrorism.

I now turn to the second major issue covered by Mr. McLachlan. This concerns the vital need that serious incidents are thoroughly investigated. At the heart of this is the point that the policies and practices of the RUC should in future reflect the paramountcy of the CID investigations, including the need for evidence to be preserved and for no obstacle to be placed in the way of questioning of suspects and witnesses.

Mr. McLachlan considers that the combined responsibility for both CID and special branch makes an important contribution to the proper handling of such inquiries. In addition, he now recommends that in controversial incidents involving RUC officers, the Chief Constable should consider whether an experienced assistant chief constable from another force should be appointed to lead the investigation; and that an experienced senior CID officer should attend any debriefing where firearms have been used by the RUC and people killed or injured. He also recommends improved arrangements at the scene of such incidents so that the forensic, pathology and photographic resources available are used to best effect.

In addition, however, to the specific recommendations of Mr. McLachlan in this area, as my right hon. and learned Friend told the House on 25 January, the Director of Public Prosecutions was intending to discuss with the Chief Constable and deputy chief constable of the RUC safeguards to ensure that in the future facts and information given to the Director are in all respects full and accurate, whether or not any security interest is involved. The House will recognise that this is precisely the issue that I identified earlier and that has to be addressed. I can inform the House that a first meeting has already been held and that these discussions are now proceeding.

The House will note, therefore, the steps that have been taken and are now in progress to address these difficult issues. The Chief Constable has implemented in full the recommendations of the special review in 1983; further changes have been made subsequently, including in particular the control of both CID and special branch under a single senior officer; and the Chief Constable is now in discussion with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the necessary safeguards for full and accurate disclosures to the director. I can also tell the House that the Chief Constable has confirmed to me that he has accepted in principle all the recommendations of Mr. McLachlan.

There is one further particular aspect that I should mention. Shortly before one of the incidents in 1982, two RUC officers were given approval to cross the border into the Republic of Ireland. At the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference yesterday, I advised Irish Ministers of the full circumstances of the officers' presence in the Republic. I emphasised that the two officers who made the crossings were in plain clothes, were unarmed and were in an unmarked car. As the Chief Constable said in the statement which he issued on 7 April 1984, the crossings were made for observation purposes only. There was no preplanned incursion, nor is there any deliberate or authorised system of incursion. Nevertheless, it is fully accepted that it was wrong and regrettable that two RUC officers were permitted to enter the territory of the Republic unannounced as part of an on-going operation. It is the Government's intention that this should not happen again and the Chief Constable for his part has undertaken to ensure that it does not; nor has it occurred since.

These incidents of 1982 and the subsequent events illustrate sharply the acutely difficult problems faced by a parliamentary democracy and the police service in combating the evil of terrorism. These incidents, in which six lives were lost and in which one person was seriously wounded, have already led to four policemen being prosecuted for murder, two more senior officers suspended, and the shadow of innuendo cast more widely over the RUC. Undoubtedly, serious mistakes were made which have damaged the reputation of the RUC.

This is a particular tragedy for a police force of the courage and professionalism of the RUC today, who have given ample recent evidence of their commitment to protecting the whole community from violence from whatever extreme it may come, and who fully deserve the tributes that Mr. Stalker, Mr. Sampson and Mr. McLachlan all pay to them. We owe it to them and to the whole community in Northern Ireland to ensure that these matters that I have described to the House today are dealt with promptly and correctly, that the wider lessons have been fully learnt, and the necessary changes effected to ensure that such problems can never happen again.

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Mr Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull North)

This is perhaps one of the most serious and grave statements that we have heard about the British security forces in Northern Ireland while these present problems have been vexing the House over the past 20 years. We have also heard the most amazing rehabilitation of John Stalker. By what they have said, the Government have confirmed every item and every incident to which he refers in his biography and found it necessary to implement those reforms and ideas that he put forward.

The House will have listened with regret to what the Secretary of State said, because it is about an area of these islands where we are supposed to enforce the rule of law. In many ways, what the Secretary of State has said has sought to muddy the waters. Talking about the McLachlan report, he was confirming the Stalker-Sampson report. Indeed, we heard him attempting to staunch the wounds of an enormous casualty list that has emerged since the Attorney-General first made his statement.

The first casualty was the rule of law. "Be you ever so high," said Lord Denning, "the law is above you" —unless, of course, you are a police officer suspected of perverting the course of justice, conspiracy or obstructing a constable. It is perhaps well that the statue of justice is blind; otherwise it would see the scales weighed heavily against the innocent in Northern Ireland.

The second casualty is the Royal Ulster Constabulary —those brave and honourable men who held the line at the Tunnel in Portadown and throughout the marching seasons, who were the subject of abuse, and who saw their families threatened, being burnt out or bombed out from their own homes. All that they had won for the RUC and all the esteem that they had achieved is lost by the Attorney-General's statement and by what we have heard today.

The third casualty has been the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It has been badly, but I hope not fatally, wounded. The spirit of trust that had grown between both Governments is badly damaged. The difficulties that the present Irish Government had on the floor of Dail Eireann to get through extradition, the searches of nearly 50,000 houses in the Republic, and the pressure that was placed upon the Irish Government are all as good as lost by the Attorney-General's statement. The mounting confidence between the Gardai and the RUC and the co-operation at all levels have been put at risk by the Attorney-General and the Government by their actions.

The final casualty—

Hon. Members:

Question.

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Mr Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull North)

The final casualty is the Secretary of State. When I heard last week, I did not know whether to feel pity or contempt—pity for what had happened to him, or contempt for the fact that he allowed it to happen to him. All we have heard today is an attempt to salvage what he can from the mess with which he was left.

Let us look at what the statement actually says. New procedures and new structures of command will not help the situation at all unless there is confidence in the men who operate them and in their objectivity. There is no word about how we will prevent future Chinese parliaments, which we heard about before. There were rules and procedures before, but they did not stop the records being altered about the telephone calls that were made and about the movement of cars and operatives. We still do not know what was recorded on the tape in the hay shed and whether Macaulay was properly prosecuted. We do not know whether telephone calls went from Armagh to RUC headquarters when the outrageous lies were perpetrated and the cover-ups carried out.

The Secretary of State has rightly used the power to make this statement that was contained under the order that we passed last year, the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. In so far as one can be happy about the statement, we are happy that the Secretary of State has gone right through all the ranks of the RUC, not just the foot soldiers, but has referred to the policy authority.

May we know the time scale of the inquiries by the chief constables? May we know the ranks of the officers who have been referred to the police authority following Mr. Sampson's report? What were their ranks and how many have been referred for possible disciplinary proceedings? Will the Secretary of State explain the strange account of the incursion into the Republic, that two RUC officers were given approval to cross the border", but that There was no preplanned incursion", and that it was part of an on-going operation. What sort of gobbledegook is that, and what is it meant to mean?

At the beginning of my observations, I gave a list of the casualties of this affair. However, there is one victor from all this, which has scarcely said a word but has enjoyed immensely not a mere bone thrown at it by the Government, but the whole roast and the silver platter as well—that is the Provisional IRA. It is the only victor of this sad three weeks of accounts from the Government.

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

The only matter on which I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is, as I made clear in my statement, that I regard these as very serious issues. The hon. Gentleman's comments referred to the rehabilitation of Mr. Stalker. Some people have been anxious to peddle various theories of conspiracy and have to sought to imply that the work that Mr. Stalker did was lost with his transfer and non-availability. I can confirm to the House that all Mr. Stalker's work was available to Mr. Sampson. I have seen the full copy of Mr. Stalker's draft final report on these matters, and the recommendations that fall within my area of responsibility. Mr. Sampson has commented on them, and likewise Mr. McLachlan had full access to the work that had been done.

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the same team that had been working for Mr. Stalker carried on working with Mr. Sampson and was, in fact, reinforced in the sense that the information that he had garnered in the volumes of reports that he produced were all available to the Chief Constable and the Director of Public Prosecutions. I advise the House that a number of recommendations flow directly from Mr. Stalker's work and recommendations.

I cannot answer specifically the hon. Gentleman's question about time scale because, of course, it will be for Mr. Kelly to determine what, if any, charges he recommends should be brought forward, and the time scale. However, I can advise the House that he has already started that work and that it is not in anybodys's interest that it should be delayed. I hope that we shall have an early resolution and understanding of whether there are to be charges and, if so, what they will be, so that the people concerned know where they stand.

In spite of the hon. Gentleman's dire warnings—as much as any hon. Member, I am under no illusions about the strength of feeling of the Irish Government and Irish Ministers—the House will be aware that the Taoiseach today moved a motion in the Dail and spoke to it, in which he made clear the determination to secure the achievements and goals of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I want to put on record on behalf of the Government, and I sincerely hope on behalf of all hon. Members, our warm recognition of the Taoiseach's firm commitment to the continuance of the closest cross-border security cooperation in the vital interests of all the people in the island of Ireland.

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Mr John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Is not Mr. Des O'Malley, TD, right to deprecate the use of security cooperation by other Irish politicians as what he calls a "diplomatic crowbar" to extract concessions from Her Majesty's Government? May we have an end to these apologies for border crossings by members of the security forces? Will the Government make members of the Garda Siochana, the Irish Army and the Irish air corps welcome if they want to cross the border to our side in pursuit of the common enemy?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

With the obvious exception of the extremist political groups, I am not aware of any party in the Republic which advocates the discontinuance of cross-border security co-operation. Certainly in his speech to the Dail today the Taoiseach made it clear that the protection of the security of this State,"— the Republic— and the protection, to the utmost of our ability, of the interests and security of all the people of Northern Ireland … dictate cross-border co-operation. It is obviously in the interest of both communities that this co-operation should be as effective as possible. The Taoiseach said that in the Dail this morning. I welcome those comments and I make absolutely clear the British Government's commitment to the closest cooperation.

I am glad to see the strong support that the Taoiseach is receiving from the leaders of other constitutional parties in the Dail. I am encouraged by that, as we are all aware that difficult issues are involved and very strong emotions have been stirred. I have listened to what my hon. Friend has said. We are determined to achieve the closest cooperation. As my hon. Friend is aware, there is much interchange and a close relationship between the Garda and the RUC. I stand by the statement that I made on the matter of the particular incursion.

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Mr James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

While these police officers are being offered up as sacrifices, will equally effective action be taken against those who actually made the crucial decisions, whether at the level of the Joint Intelligence Committee, MI5 or certain other bodies perhaps at a slightly higher level?

Is that not vitally essential, particularly in the light of the comments made by the spokesman for the official Opposition, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who seemed very reluctant to tread on that ground?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

If I understand the question correctly, the right hon. Gentleman knows better than I that those are not matters for me.

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Reverend Dr Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at this very hour a gallant young 23-year-old lance-corporal of the Ulster Defence Regiment, Alan Johnson of Kilkeel, is being buried? Is he not also aware that nothing that he has said at the Dispatch Box today will give any comfort to the mourners at that funeral? Will he take that on board and think of those who are suffering as a result of an officially declared shoot-to-kill policy of the sectarian Irish Republican Army? Will he now do what he did not do in his statement and tell the House that the four police officers were cleared of the charge in the court of law? Why did he not tell the House, when he was talking about their being brought to court, that they were cleared?

Will the Secretary of State also tell us that, now that discipline is to be applied in the ranks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, similar measures should be taken in the ranks of MI5, and should reach to the top of MI5, the Prime Minister's own office and the Prime Minister herself, who is in charge of the security arrangements? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that anyone in Northern Ireland will be bluffed by what he has said about Charles Haughey today? I listened to the debate in the Dail. Charles Haughey made it clear that extradition had been stopped, and would be stopped until such time as he and his Government got their act together.

Was not the Anglo-Irish Agreement sold on the basis that we would have extradition? Now Mr. Haughey has told us that we shall have none whatever. Would it not be better for the Secretary of State to admit that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has failed? Is it not his duty to institute immediate talks with all parties concerned for a new and viable agreement — an alternative to the present agreement—in which the majority of the people of Northern Ireland can take part, and which they can support? Is that not the best way forward?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

Of course I am aware of the appalling and savage murder of the UDR lance-corporal Alan Johnson in Kilkeel. As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, Lance-Corporal Johnson is sadly another in the list of victims in the continued assault on democracy — the terrorist campaign that Northern Ireland has had to endure. What I have said today is relevant because I know that the best hope of ensuring that we avoid such killings in the future is by obtaining the fullest commitment of everyone in the island of Ireland to the defeat of terrorism. That is why close co-operation with the Irish Republic is in the interests of all in the Province.

With respect, what the hon. Gentleman said about extradition is not correct. The Taoiseach made clear his concern that extradition should operate effectively, and stressed that it was necessary for it to work within the terms of the new Act that the Dail passed recently. I made it clear to Irish Ministers that I hope that it is possible to resolve the problem. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is anxious to find out whether it can be resolved on the technical basis of the provision of adequate facts for the Irish Attorney-General, so that extradition can operate effectively. But, far from saying that extradition had been stopped, the Taoiseach made it very clear in his speech today that he wished to see it operating effectively, and that it was in the interests of the Republic as well as those of the United Kingdom.

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Mr John Hume (Foyle)

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the good faith of the Irish Government in co-operation did not begin today, that they have acted in good faith since they came to office—particularly, as the results show, in security co-operation? Will he also acknowledge that the trust and confidence on which such co-operation should be based has been dealt a very damaging blow by the amazing statement of the Attorney-General, which seemed to suggest that certain people are above the rule of law and that the rule of law is transcended by national security? Has he any plans or proposals for steps to undo the damage done to that essential trust?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

Of course, I know very well the strength of feeling on those issues. The Irish Government have ma de clear to me their views both on the Attorney-General's statement and on the judgment on the Birmingham six, although one of those issues is not my responsibility.

Having said that, I recognise that, in certain respects, we are not able to meet the Irish concerns. The Taoiseach referred to an impasse; however, I noted that in his speech today he was careful to stress that there was not an impasse right across the board in Anglo-Irish relations, but only in respect of those issues.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier, there was, in a sense, something of an impasse for us over extradition arrangements, which were not exactly as we would have wished. But, having argued our case very strongly, we eventually had to decide that the Irish Government were sovereign in that regard, and they made their decision. The Attorney-General has his responsibilities—very clear responsibilities—and, with integrity, he made his decisions. Ultimately, such decisions must be made. Then we have to see how it is possible to deal with the lack of confidence or other problems that may flow from those decisions.

In this instance, we have made it clear that we do not like the extradition arrangements. They raise additional problems. Having said that, however, we will try to make them work. That must be the spirit in which we approach the problem. As the longest-serving member of the Anglo-Irish Conference on either side, I believe passionately that we should thank God that we have got a mechanism that enables us to sit down and argue out difficult issues, instead of engaging in megaphone diplomacy on either side of the Irish sea.

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Mr Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)

While I welcome very warmly my right hon. Friend's commitment to continuing co-operation with the Republic in the struggle against the IRA, does he not agree that such cooperation requires some flexibility in respect of the border —a border that is crossed, I understand, by hundreds if not thousands of civilians every day? Was it really necessary to apologise for our two policemen having crossed the border in plain clothes for observation purposes? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that flexibility between ourselves and the Republic will allow policemen from the Garda and the RUC to continue flexible co-operation? As I understood it, my right hon. Friend's statement contained an assurance that we would not do it again.

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I made a very clear statement, which I have also made to the Irish Government. I recognise my right hon. Friend's close interest in these matters. However, we now have the best opportunity of really close co-operation with the Irish. We can only take the greatest satisfaction in the achievements so far. My right hon. Friend will remember the substantial arms find on Five Finger beach in Donegal. Just imagine the terror and carnage that would have occurred if those weapons had become available within Northern Ireland.

How are the benefits of co-operation to be achieved? The RUC, in which I have the fullest confidence, recognises the need for an understanding with the Garda. There are sensitivities on the Irish side, as there are on our side. What I said about the incursion is, I think, correct. It is necessary to make the position clear, because I also believe that there are huge benefits to be gained from sensible co-operation, without our trying to work in ways that affect too keenly some of the sensitivities on the Irish side.

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Mr David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Does the Secretary of State accept that neither a debate in the House nor internal disciplinary inquiries within the RUC can get to the heart of what was a mistaken policy, which was clearly being pursued by sections of the police and security forces in the Province at the time, and which led to the murder of civilians? That is the key issue.

The right hon. Gentleman referred in the opening paragraph of his statement to areas within his responsibility. Will he be more specific than he was in his reply to the leader of the Official Unionists, and make it clear that that area does not include the activity of the security services and their relationship with special branch? That is the area for which the Secretary of State cannot answer to the House.

Following the meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) had on Monday with Chief Constable Hermon, we certainly agree with the sentence in the statement in which the Secretary of State talks about it being undesirable that the "shadow of innuendo" should hang over the RUC itself. Our concern is that his statement will not lift that shadow. Does he accept that it is not in the national interest that a sour and hostile atmosphere should exist either between the Republic of Ireland and ourselves or between the two communities in Northern Ireland, because it is in precisely that atmosphere that the IRA flourishes?

Therefore, will he accept that nothing less will do than the establishment of a Select Committee of the House with the capability of inquiring into these matters and the oversight of the security services? If for security reasons it has to be a Committee of Privy Councillors, so be it. It is surely not good enough that the Congress of the United States and most of the major European democracies have such accountability while we do not. Will he see that such an inquiry is established without delay?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

Certainly, of course I am aware of and deeply regret the difficulties and problems that this has posed for the RUC. The events of 1982 continue to haunt the RUC. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) paid tribute to just one of the incidents in which the RUC was involved — the protection of Nationalists in Portadown and elsewhere. That is only one of a whole range of activities that involve protecting the community from terrorist attacks from whichever side they come. The RUC have also been involved in seizures of arms from both sides of the community. We have recently seen arms seizures from extremists on both sides. Mr. Sampson, Mr. Stalker and Mr. McLachlan have all expressed their admiration for the present-day RUC and its excellent work. However, this ghost from all those years ago has come back to haunt the RUC, and I greatly regret that.

One point was incorrect. These events did not lead to the murder of individuals in the sense that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North put it. It is important to remind the House in connection with the very unsatisfactory phrase "shoot to kill" that the hon. Gentleman used that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said that … no evidence has been disclosed of any offence—such as incitement to murder—such as would be comprised in what has been loosely called a shoot-to-kill policy."—[Official Report, 25 January 1988; Vol. 126, c. 24.] We are concerned here with the key issues that I sought to put before the House; the perversion of the course of justice has to do with the issues of the subsequent investigation and those aspects.

We have had a report by a chief constable that runs to some 17 volumes of criminal investigation. That was the most thorough investigation that could have been carried out, and Mr. Stalker interviewed some 300 police officers, some of them undercover and secret surveillance men. There were 600 written statements from policemen, forensic scientists, doctors, pathologists and relatives of the dead men. That is the depth of that investigation, and all that information was available to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General. In a democracy where sensitive security issues are involved, in the end matters in his area must be the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I must be responsible as Secretary of State. In the final analysis, we are accountable to the House.

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Mr James Kilfedder (North Down)

All decent people here and in Northern Ireland, and I would say elsewhere, will be delighted to pay tribute to the RUC for its courage, fairness and professionalism. That force is facing an evil and sophisticated terrorist organisation that will take comfort from every word of criticism that is uttered today against the Royal Ulster Constabulary, a force that has lost so many gallant officers in order to defend the people of Northern Ireland. We should try to support the security forces in Northern Ireland. Nobody is attacking or setting up committees of inquiry to inquire into the activities of the IRA and the way in which it murders and mutilates innocent people.

Is it now possible after a sustained campaign in the media and from Dublin for the suspended police officers to obtain a fair, unprejudiced disciplinary hearing? I and many people in Northern Ireland fear that they they will be sacrificed in order to please a Republican element.

Finally, may I ask the Secretary of State about the penultimate paragraph in his statement about a minor incident that took place six years ago? Was an apology deliberately included in that statement as a result of the meeting of the Anglo-Eire Conference yesterday, when Dublin demanded that further criticism should be made of the RUC? This is strange, because when a Dublin Minister visited Newry last week he demanded that a British Army observation post should be demolished. Who is fighting the enemy?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

The hon. Gentleman asked about the suspended officers. I have made clear, and I think it is right, that the Chief Constable decided that these matters should be decided by independent chief constables from other police forces. I am sure that that is right, and I think that it is in the interests of any officers who may find themselves facing any disciplinary charges that these matters should be dealt with as speedily as possible. I think that the whole House will understand that.

In the case of the report that I gave the House about the incursion, as I had given information to the Irish Government about the presence on their territory and in their jurisdiction of RUC officers in the course of an operation, I thought it right to report that to the House.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

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Mr Bernard Weatherill (Croydon North East)

Order. May I ask for briefer questions please? We have a very heavy day before us and I have had great pressure from hon. Members who wish to speak in a subsequent debate.

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Mr Merlyn Rees (Leeds South and Morley)

The Secretary of State has spoken about serious mistakes in a force in which I still have very many friends, even after the many years since I was in the Province. I agree that those mistakes have to be corrected because, unlike the IRA and all the other paramilitary organisations, the RUC is our responsibility. Does he agree that, if we concern ourselves with those matters, we are in no sense condoning the shoot-to-kill and the bomb-to-kill policies of the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland? Is it not now appropriate for us to debate the first part of the Secretary of State's statement—not today but shortly? We tend to forget the security situation in Northern Ireland in a way that the Secretary of State cannot. We ought to discuss it and his plans for reorganisation.

I was surprised at one answer that the Secretary of State gave the leader of the Official Unionists, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), when he seemed to indicate that as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland he had no responsibility for the other security organisations working in the Province. That was not the way I operated and that matter ought to be cleared up. I should like to ask the Secretary of State a number of brief questions to which we ought to know the answers Under what Act is the Kelly inquiry instituted? I ask that question because my investigations this morning show that, if it is the 1970 Act, the public interest comes into it, as it came into the Attorney-General's statement the other day.

If there are disciplinary charges on very serious issues, what representation will be available to the police officers concerned, and will they have the right of appeal? These are important issues that were considered for open court but it was decided not to do that. The men that have been brought to my notice feel very strongly about this. It is being said, "Is the Secretary of State aware that if it is in the public interest that Mr. Stalker can print his views of what went on, surely these policemen have the right equally to make public their views on the same matter."

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I very much appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. As a predecessor of mine, he is familiar with these issues. As he knows, the question of a debate is a matter not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who will have heard what he said. I note that a draft order under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act is among the remaining Orders of the Day, and I hope that it will be debated shortly.

I understand that, following the introduction of new regulations, police officers facing disciplinary charges will be able to be legally represented. That is my present understanding of the matter, and I shall inform the House if that is not correct. As to the other questions that the right hon. Gentleman asks, I cannot add further to the answers that I have given.

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Reverend William McCrea (Mid Ulster)

In his statement today, the Secretary of State has brought no encouragement to the people of Northern Ireland. Will he accept that over the past months the majority of the population have been sickened by the manner in which the RUC, which obeyed its orders and carried out its duty, has been hounded to please a nest of Republican vipers? Will he accept that the RUC deserves the support of the House when carrying out its difficult duty facing a terrorist organisation, the IRA, which has brutally murdered its members and which continues to destroy young lives and homes in the Province?

Does the Secretary of State agree that it would assist the debate if most of the Opposition Members who have spoken, other than the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who set himself apart from them in his remarks, had used their verbal powers to condemn the murderous scum of the IRA, which is bringing turmoil to the country, instead of using their verbal power against the Royal Ulster Constabulaory, which has suffered so much during those years of turmoil? Does the Secretary of State agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley), the leader of my party, stated a fact — that the four members of the RUC who were brought to court were cleared? Are they to be part of the disciplinary procedure, or will the court's decision stand?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

As to the hon. Gentleman's last point—I apologise to the hon. Member for Antrim, North, whom I did not address—it is correct to say that those four policemen were acquitted. I cannot go further as to against whom criminal charges may be brought. That is entirely a matter for Mr. Kelly and his colleague; rightly, I am not privy to those matters.

It is precisely to defeat the evil of the IRA, the INLA and other extremist organisations, from whichever side they come, that we must ensure that we achieve the highest level of support throughout the community for the work of the security forces and the RUC. We are entitled to expect the highest standards, which is why, when those high standards are not achieved and mistakes are made, they must be addressed. That is what I have sought to do in my statement today.

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Mr Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

Does the Secretary of State agree that many people will see his statement as a damning indictment of the leadership and direction of the RUC? Does he further agree that public confidence will not be restored, or the damage done to the process of justice ameliorated, unless the Chief Constable, assistant chief constable and deputy chief constable whom Mr. Stalker wanted to interview under criminal caution are removed from their positions in Northern Ireland?

Given that this police service required the involvement of people ranging from Sir Arthur Young, Sir Kenneth Newman, Chief Constable Drury, John Stalker, Colin Sampson, Mr. Charles McLachlan, Chief Constable Charles Kelly and other police officers who were brought over to investigate other instances, will the right hon. Gentleman further agree that it is time that there was a Chief Constable in charge of the RUC who could rule his force properly and with integrity, who would not need the involvement of policemen from this side of the Irish Sea?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

When I listen to the hon. Gentleman, I sometimes get the impression that he is trying to imply that the events that we are discussing have occurred in the past year. He knows that these events occurred in 1982. He said that my statement is a damning indictment of the current leadership. I precisely paid tribute, as did Mr. Stalker, Mr. Sampson and Mr. McLachlan, to the changes and improvements that have been made and to the professionalism and integrity of the current RUC.

To be fair, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the number of times that hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland have had reason to be grateful for the efforts of the RUC. I know of occasions when he has asked for help because he was worried about intimidation and invasions by thugs of parts of his constituency. The RUC has turned out on such occasions to protect people regardless of their religion or background.

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Mr Eldon Griffiths (Bury St Edmunds)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, under the double jeopardy rule—which I, among others, negotiated with a Labour Home Secretary — the evidence brought against the police officers charged with murder, but who have been found innocent, will not be admissible for disciplinary purposes?

Will he acknowledge that Mr. Stalker, whatever else he did, was naive in failing to realise that undercover stories are sometimes essential to protect sources in intelligence gathering? As my right hon. Friend was present at St. Anne's cathedral, when a memorial to 252 murdered police officers was unveiled, will he confirm that he is at one with the Primate of all Ireland, who said.

Without the RUC, civilised life in this province would be impossible"? Should we not consider that as the heart of the matter?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I believe that my hon. Friend is correct in his point about double jeopardy, but I should like to check that matter, and if I am not correct I shall so advise him.

In his second point, my hon. Friend mentioned undercover stories. The purpose of my statement — I sought to be franker with the House than has hitherto been the case with this matter—is to explain a dilemma. In the protection of sources of intelligence lives are at risk, and people seek to protect them in any way available to them, for the highest and most principled of purposes.

Having said that, there must come a time when that protection and those undercover stories are subject to accountability. My hon. Friend, who knows a lot about this matter, will have listened carefully to what I said about discussions between the DPP and the Chief Constable. At the end of the day, the DPP must be given full and accurate information. I think that I have said enough for the House to understand why some of these problems arose.

My hon. Friend rightly referred to that moving occasion at which a memorial to 250 members of the RUC was unveiled — the window that the Police Federation has had installed. It was the clearest reminder of what the archbishop said: that the whole community of Northern Ireland owes a massive debt to the members of the RUC, the UDR—both full-time and part-time — the security forces and all those in public positions, such as judges, who have helped to maintain civilised life in Northern Ireland.

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Mr Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)

Is the Secretary of State aware that the three incidents that were investigated occurred in what was my constituency? I support the Secretary of State in asking people to understand the circumstances of six years ago. Is the House aware that, in the previous 11 years, five of the six men who were shot and their associates — this is not intended in any way to excuse any wrongdoing—had murdered 222 people in my constituency, 42 of whom were policemen, 35 of whom were UDR men, over 20 of whom were innocent Catholics and the rest were regular soldiers —constituents of hon. Members—and Protestants? I ask hon. Members to understand that background, not to excuse wrongdoing but so that they may know the circumstances in which these people were operating.

May I ask the Secretary of State two simple questions? Are we to take it from the statement about over-specialisation that department E4A is being abolished? If so, can he tell us at what political level it was approved that members of E4A should be trained in speed, aggression and fire power by the SAS; and, having been trained, what were they expected to do? Secondly, can he tell us whether he uncovered the person in the security services, in his office or in the RUC who advised the special branch of the RUC to use the cover of the Official Secrets Act 1911 to convey to the men on the ground that national security was the basis upon which they could defend their wrongdoing? Has the Secretary of State uncovered the person who gave that advice, or does he expect us to believe that a middle-ranking police officer came up with the idea?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I think the whole House will have noted the opening remarks of the hon. Member and what occurred in his constituency, and will have gained an understanding of some of the pressures and appalling challenges that were faced by people in his constituency. The House will have noted that he was careful, correctly, to make it clear that in no sense was he condoning wrongdoing. I understand that five of the people who were killed were acknowledged members of terrorist groups—of course, that in no way condones any wrongdoing that may have occurred; the hon. Member put that on the record — and my understanding is that that information is correct.

The hon. Member was right to say that we must ensure that, if there was wrongdoing, there is a proper and full investigation. I cannot comment on any of the matters that he raised about E4A. I shall certainly not comment on the last point the hon. Member raised.

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Mr Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

Mr. Stalker claims that he was forced off the inquiry and out of office because of pressure by Ministers of the Crown. Will my right hon. Friend deny this? If so, will he make it clear to Mr. Stalker that this contemptible behaviour of touting his allegations and his book from town hall to town hall plays into the hands of the men of violence?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I have seen some suggestions; I do not think there has been a specific statement by Mr. Stalker. If there is uncertainty in the House, I am more than ready to make it clear that I am unaware of any truth in these suggestions.

From my point of view, the events in Manchester that led to the non-availability of Mr. Stalker were extremely inconvenient in relation to Northern Ireland. It meant greater delay and an interruption of the process of the inquiry. One did not need a crystal ball to know that there would be all the allegations that people have made about cover-up or conspiracy. It was profoundly annoying. We wanted an early resolution of the matter, but I constantly had to disappoint the House because of the interruptions and delays those problems caused.

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Mr Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Does not the Secretary of State consider that the behaviour of Mr. Stalker was reprehensible in so far as he was, during his investigation and since his removal from the inquiry, engaged in a cynical exercise of self-promotion? Was Stalker being professional when, from May 1985, he communicated both his position and his prejudices on the issue on an almost daily basis to Michael Unger, the editor of the Manchester Evening News? Is it not a fact that he has, since then, turned the inquiry into a drama, an entertainment or even a farce, where fact cannot be differentiated from fiction?

Can we expect members of the RUC to get justice from something that he has trailed through the public domain for so long? Are the heads of middle-ranking officers now to be offered on a platter to placate Dublin's uncooperative and duplicitous politicians? When do the Government intend to stop toadying to terrorists and their apologists and remember, for example, the 195 people who have died in my constituency, with 168 of those cases remaining unsolved? When do the Government intend to remember the 150 people who have died in an escalating death toll since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed? Indeed, when do they intend to remember the 2,625 people who have died from terrorist violence?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

On the hon. Member's first point, I have had the opportunity to study Mr. Stalker's draft final report on the matters within my responsibility. In that there is much excellent work. It is very unfortunate that there was, as everyone in Northern Ireland knew, a lack of confidence between Mr. Stalker and the RUC. I know that part of that undoubtedly derived from a feeling, justified or not, that an awful lot of the proceedings in Northern Ireland seemed to be appearing regularly in press bulletins. If the extracts of Mr. Unger's diary are correct, I find it difficult to understand how that could properly have taken place. I am concerned with the substance of the inquiry and to see what lessons are learnt from it.

In respect of the pursuit of terrorism, I believe more firmly than ever in my time as Secretary of State that the best hope for the end of terrorism is the carrying forward of the co-operation with the Irish Government which is starting to develop in cross-border security, as we have seen in the recent searches.

Several Hon. Members:

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Mr Bernard Weatherill (Croydon North East)

Order. I have to bear in mind, as I have already said, that a very important debate on ILEA is to follow and that there is great pressure to take part in it. I will allow questions on the statement for a further 10 minutes, but I propose to give preference to hon. Members who were not called on the statement on a broadly similar subject on Monday 25 January.

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Mr William Benyon (Milton Keynes)

Accepting the very nature of the alleged offences, and accepting everything that my right hon. Friend has announced today, but remembering that all these things happened way back in 1982, may I ask whether it is not essential to carry the Government in Dublin with us because, without their active co-operation, there is not a cat in hell's chance of defeating terrorism?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I certainly attach the greatest importance to that. I think I have given testament to that. The hours that I have spent in discussion with the Irish Government on these serious issues are evidence of that.

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Mr Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

Cannot the Secretary of State, setting aside matters relating to 1982 which are under consideration, pay tribute without apology to the service given by the RUC and the security forces to all the citizens in Northern Ireland? Will he assure the House that RUC officers who carried out operational directions and anti-terrorist duties will not be sacrificed and persecuted to satisfy high-level, anti-Unionist agitation through the media, Republican prejudice and unwarranted interference from the Irish Republic and the representatives of that foreign Government? Will he agree that the shootand-kill policy and the bomb-and-murder campaign of the IRA, which have resulted in 252 police officers being murdered, the majority of which murders are unsolved, make it necessary in considering any future disciplinary action to take account of the circumstances that prevailed in 1982?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I have already paid clear tribute to the RUC, as have other right hon. and hon. Members. As to the position of anyone who may face disciplinary charges, I think the integrity of the chief constables who will be responsible for both stages of that process is the firmest assurance on the point the hon. Member makes.

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Mr Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not his wise and resolute statement this afternoon but the response of the Opposition Front Bench —very ill-judged—that will give encouragement to the IRA? Will my right hon. Friend consider again the answers that he gave earlier this afternoon? Does he recall that the preamble to the Anglo-Irish Agreement refers to the need for real co-operation between friendly neighbouring states to defeat terrorism? Is my right hon. Friend really telling the House that if members of the Garda — whether armed or unarmed, in uniform or in civilian clothes—should cross into the north in pursuit of terrorists he would lodge a complaint with Dublin?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

On my hon. Friend's opening remarks, I found the response of the Opposition deeply disappointing and I understand entirely why my hon. Friend commented as he did. On the question of a member of the Garda crossing the border in pursuit of such an operation, it is absolutely essential that there is trust and understanding between the RUC and the Garda. What is not acceptable on either side is for these things to happen without warning and without co-operation. That must be understood on both sides.

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Mr Peter Archer (Warley West)

Will the Secretary of State now accept what some of us tried to say at the outset —that one cover-up leads inexorably to the next? Mr. Stalker finds senior police officers concealing the truth, so he in turn has to be silenced. If the boil is now finally to be lanced, would it not have been wiser, in the interests of everyone, to appoint investigators from outside the police force? Can the Secretary of State tell us which of the reports that he has mentioned this afternoon will be made public?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I have already made it clear to the House that the reports will not be published, for the reason that they contain a considerable amount of extremely sensitive information. What I have tried to do in my statement is to give the House the clearest picture of what is covered by the recommendations and the particular aspects of concern.

On the idea of Mr. Stalker being silenced, I sought to address that point. In the one independent study of this matter that I have seen, the conclusion of the writer is that there was no evidence whatever of an involvement in that way. The matters that arose in Manchester, as I said, I bitterly regret because they were extremely inconvenient.

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Mr John Farr (Harborough)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that I find it difficult to support what he has had to say and to share his confidence that what he is doing will be anything other than detrimental to the RUC, which the House holds in great esteem? It seems to some Conservative Members not only that he is taking a step that will damage the RUC but that possibly prosecutions should be against people of a higher rank. On cross-border incursions, surely my right hon. Friend does not suggest that in a country divided by a border, in which families are divided by a border, it is anything other than good that plain-clothes policemen, off duty or on duty, should cross from south to north and from north to south as rapidly and frequently as possible.

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

My hon. Friend referred to the action that I am taking. The disciplinary matters are for the Chief Constable, and they are actions that he is taking. The police authority is taking action, and it has clear responsibilities for the RUC and for the morale and good standing of the RUC. On my other announcements, my hon. Friend will have noted that Mr. McLachlan's recommendations have all been accepted in principle by the Chief Constable. They are working in the interests of a stronger and improved RUC in those respects.

I have nothing to add to my point about incursions.

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Mr Patrick Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

May I ask the Secretary of State a simple question? In view of the value set by Mr. McLachlan on the preservation of evidence — endorsed by the Secretary of State in his statement—was Mr. McLachlan made aware of what happened to the crucial tape of the events in the hay shed in which the boy Tighe was murdered in 1982?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

Those matters have to do with the criminal investigation and not with the structure and organisation of the RUC, and that is the view that Mr. McLachlan took.

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Mr Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

A 16-year old boy was murdered—possibly murdered, I should say—the policemen lied to the court, and there is evidence of perversion of the course of justice. The Chief Constable — if we are to believe Mr. Stalker — for 18 months delayed the inquiry in respect of the tape and then told him that the transcript of the tape was destroyed. At the end of the day, what I cannot understand is how that can reflect well on British justice and the rule of law. Are not decisions such as this, which fudge the issue, more likely to detach Ulster from the United Kingdom?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

The issues that my hon. Friend raises are germane to investigations into criminal proceedings and that matter is addressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. My statement is concerned with discipline and the structure and organisation of the RUC, which are within my responsibilities.

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Mr Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Will the Secretary of State answer the question that I tabled last week, which he avoided answering? Does that tape exist? He knows the answer to that question.

Will he condemn West Yorkshire police who persist in smearing Mr. Stalker by issuing unofficial statements linking him with the murder of Sergeant Speed?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

On the latter point, I have no information, and I am certainly not entering into arguments between two mainland police forces in this matter. The hon. Gentleman knows well that the first matter is for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.

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Mr Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the events of the past few weeks will undoubtedly damage Anglo-Irish relations in the short term, they make it more imperative than ever that we have a structure such as that provided by the Anglo-Irish Agreement which is a framework for sensible discussions between the two countries?

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

I very much agree with my hon. Friend, and I certainly believe that very strongly. We may not always agree, but we have a mechanism and a procedure under which discussions can take place. I welcome the comments of the Taoiseach in the Dail today making clear the Irish Government's position.

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Dr Jim Marshall (Leicester South)

Will the Secretary of State accept that, despite the comments of Conservative Members, the Official Opposition wish to support and do, indeed, support the security forces in the Province in the fight against terrorism? However, in that fight we must above all be seen to be acting within the law. Opposition Members do, indeed, support the fight within the rule of law.

Does the Secretary of State accept that, if the RUC is to be successful not only in its fight against terrorism but in its fight against other forms of crime, it is essential that it should have the confidence and support of both communities in the Province? As the Secretary of State will accept, there has been a gain of confidence in the RUC among the Catholic community in the past few years. If we are to remove the damage that has been done by Stalker and the innuendo and rumour, it is essential that the ghosts of six years ago should be fully exorcised and that the disciplinary procedures are seen to be operated—it is to be hoped, within a relatively short period.

On extradition — a question that the Secretary of State raised — he accepted that the Republic has laid down certain rules and guidelines for the acceptance of extradition warrants from the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State accepted that those conditions existed and that it was correct for a foreign sovereign Government to place such conditions upon extradition warrants. If that is the view of the Secretary of State, will he ask—and inform—his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to comply with those conditions, as that is the reason why extradition proceedings are not taking place?

On the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), will the Secretary of State again take on board the need for a full day's debate on all these issues? We certainly do not accept that the three-hour debate on the emergency provisions legislation provides adequate time or scope for such a full debate.

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Mr Tom King (Bridgwater)

The last matter is not one for me, but I think that the hon. Gentleman heard my earlier comments. I thank him for his opening remarks, which showed a balanced approach. I think that the whole House will be pleased to hear that support for the security forces and the comments on the importance of acting within the law and the need for the security forces to have the community's confidence and for disciplinary procedures to be seen to operate fairly and effectively.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about extradition, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is anxious for officials to meet to resolve the technical problems. We hope that it will be possible for that to happen soon, so that extradition can operate effectively.

Several Hon. Members:

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Mr Bernard Weatherill (Croydon North East)

Order. I am very sorry that it has not been possible to call those hon. Members who have been rising. I assure them that I have taken careful note of their names and that they will be given some preference when this matter is next debated.